Saturday, 22 November 2014



(Written in January 2008, when my part of England had had little snow for some time)

1930s New Jersey, snow.
"Momma, do we believe
in winter?" Alex Portnoy asked,
hopeful, and caught naive.

The joke has turned since then. Winter
the Pole and winter's death
alike bear claim and counter-claim
and evidence and faith.

And if we hear, on Christmas Eve,
"Hey, it's begun to snow!"
we turn and look across the room,
hoping it might be so,

earth white, sky dancing, rivers ice,
railways camera-black-
and-silver, faces sunset-red-blue.
Nostalgia wants them back.

In my home city, snow is rare,
these years. Some winters tick
snow-free. Beliefs change, winters change,
old times ache. Homesick. Sick.

The genesis of this poem is explained in the title note, which I added when the joke turned again and snow returned Cambridge, as it did within months of my writing.  I have just entered the work in PoemPigeon's competition on the theme of winter -- one of those in which, as I have explained before, the mode of entry is by posting on the web site.

You probably recognised the allusions to Philip Roth's novel Portnoy's complaint and Thomas Hardy's poem 'The oxen'.  But I don't think they need any explanation.

And -- yes, of course I know that the impact of climate change goes deeper than playing games with one person's nostalgia for snow.